What is Oil Pulling?

Oil pulling is quickly gaining popularity, so I decided to investigate the matter myself. Is it really the cure-all people say it is, or just another fad to be debunked in the near future? I was intrigued when I first heard about oil pulling over a year ago. The idea of swishing oil around in my mouth sounded revolting, but I’m always up for a challenge.

Coconut Oil

My first attempt involved an entire tablespoon of coconut oil, and although it wasn't as disgusting as I had anticipated (coconut oil is quite tasty), the swishing action caused the coconut oil to foam up and expand. My mouth was too small to hold the oil and it almost ended up all over the kitchen floor. After a few attempts I found the right amount of coconut oil for me and I was able to work my way up to 20 minutes within a few days.

My teeth immediately “felt cleaner” and within less than a week I noticed decreased tooth sensitivity to cold, no bleeding gums while flossing, and my breath seemed fresher. 

How I do Oil Pulling

  1. Take 1-3 teaspoons of coconut oil first thing in the morning and lightly swish it around your mouth. 
  2. Let it sit for 20 minutes, occasionally swishing and moving it around your mouth to get into the nooks and crevices of your teeth and gums. 
  3. Dispose the coconut oil in the garbage. 
  4. Finish by gargling with salt water. 

History of Oil Pulling

Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic practice from India, which traditionally involves sesame oil. An early Ayurvedic text, the Charaka Samhita claims oil pulling to be a cure for approximately 30 systemic diseases, including migraines, diabetes, and asthma. It has been used in India as a folk remedy for many years as a treatment to strengthen gums, teeth, and jaw, for bleeding gums, halitosis (bad breath), dry throat, and dry cracked lips(1).

Does Oil Pulling Work?

I strongly advise against using oil pulling as a sole treatment for migraines, diabetes, or asthma, but it may have some value when it comes to oral health. Coconut oil has powerful antibiotic properties and therefore can be a useful tool in treating gingivitis. A few studies on oral health and sesame oil pulling emerging from India point out the benefits in adolescent boys with plaque-induced gingivitis - showing a reduction in halitosis, plaque, gingivitis scores, and total colony count of aerobic organisms(2, 3).

Both sesame and coconut oil have antimicrobial action against Strep mutans (the primary bacteria involved in causing tooth decay), but coconut oil has the added benefit of it being antibacterial against Candida albicans (4, 5), and other fungal infections. Following up with a salt water gargle also has its antiseptic qualities; helping to kill bacteria.

As for the purported ability of certain oils to “pull toxins” out of the mouth, there is no evidence to support that claim at this time. Yet there seems to be value in oil pulling for oral health and hygiene, after all, the primary cause of tooth decay is bacteria. My challenge for you is to test oil pulling for yourself; you may be pleased to notice a decrease in gum inflammation, tooth sensitivity and halitosis.

Resources:

  1. Singh, H., & Purohit, B. (2011). Tooth brushing, oil pulling and tissue regeneration: a review of holistic approaches to oral health. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 2(2), 64-68.
  2. Asokan, S., Emmandi, P, & Chamundeswari, R. (2009). Effect of oil pulling on plaque induced gingivitis: A randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. Indian Journal of Dental Research, 20(1), 47-51. 
  3. Asokan, S., Saravana Kumar, R., Emmadi, P, Raghuraman, r., & Sivakumar, N. (2011). Effect of oil pulling on halitosis and microorganisms causing halitosis: A randomized controlled pilot trial. Journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics & Preventative Dentistry, 29(2), 90-94.
  4. Asokan, S., Rathan, J., Muthu, M., Rathna Prabhu, V., & Emmandi, P. (2008). Effect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans count in plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: A randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. Journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics & Preventative Dentistry, 26(1), 12-17.
  5. Thaweboon, S., Nakaparksin, J., & Thaweboon, B. (2011). Effect of oil-pulling on oral microorganisms in biofilm models. Asia Journal of Public Health, 2(2), 62-66.